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Does Education Improve Citizenship? Evidence from the U.S. and the U.K

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  • Kevin Milligan
  • Enrico Moretti
  • Philip Oreopoulos

Abstract

Many economists and educators of diverse political beliefs favor public support for education on the premise that a more educated electorate enhances the quality of democracy. While some earlier studies document an association between schooling and citizenship, little attempt has been made to address the possibility that unobservable characteristics of citizens underlie this relationship. This paper explores the effect of extra schooling induced through compulsory schooling laws on the likelihood of becoming politically involved in the US and the UK. We find that educational attainment is related to several measures of political interest and involvement in both countries. For voter turnout, we find a strong and robust relationship between education and voting for the US, but not for the UK. Using the information on validated voting, we find that misreporting of voter status can not explain our estimates. Our results suggest that the observed drop in voter turnout in the US from 1964 to 2000 would have been 10.4 to 12.3 percentage points greater if high school attainment had stayed at 1964 rates, holding all else constant. However, when we condition on registration, our US results approach the UK findings. This may indicate that registration rules present a barrier to low-educated citizens' participation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9584.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
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Publication status: published as Milligan, Kevin, Enrico Moretti and Philip Oreopoulos. "Does Education Improve Citizenship? Evidence From The United States And The United Kingdom," Journal of Public Economics, 2004, v88(9-10,Aug), 1667-1695.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9584

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  1. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 155-189, March.
  2. Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014, November.
  3. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2002. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John F. Helliwell & Robert D. Putnam, 1999. "Education and Social Capital," NBER Working Papers 7121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws," Working Papers oreo-03-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  6. Meghir, Costas & Palme, Marten, 2001. "The Effect of a Social Experiment in Education," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0451, Stockholm School of Economics.
  7. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-86, December.
  8. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Angrist, 2001. "How Large are Human-Capital Externalities? Evidence from Compulsory-Schooling Laws," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 9-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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